Category: Lifestyle

Prioritizing Spiritual Work

Prioritizing Spiritual Work

If we are going to call our spiritual lives “big rocks,” then we need to treat it as such. That needs to be one of the priorities that is non-negotiable and doesn’t get edged out by the little things. 

Stephen Covey was an author, speaker, and business man best known for his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” One of his most popular teachings is to put “first things first,” and he spoke to the idea of “big rocks.” Picture a container in which you must fit big rocks and small rocks. (I’ve seen this illustration also include sand and water in addition to the rocks) If you first allow the small rocks to fill the container you will never get all of the big rocks in. If, instead, you put the large rocks in the container first, the small rocks will fill in the gaps and everything fits. 

In Covey’s principles, the large rocks represent the most important parts of your life, and the small rocks represent the little things that can so often distract us from what is necessary. It’s only when we first focus on the large rocks—the most important things of life—that we can truly live in healthy balance. As soon as we allow the small rocks of life to dictate our schedule and patterns of life that healthy balance disappears.

In my 20 years of ministry, quite often what I see is that individuals will call their spiritual lives a big rock, but then turn around and treat it like a small rock. What I mean by that is that is that there is a tendency to put priority on work, home life, hobbies, etc. and IF there is still room in the container then spiritual life gets included. The reality is that there will always be small rocks that make their way into our lives, trying to edge out the important things in life.

If we are going to call our spiritual lives “big rocks,” then we need to treat it as such. That needs to be one of the priorities that is non-negotiable and doesn’t get edged out by the little things. 

That means setting aside time intentionally to be in prayer and meditation, to read a portion of scripture, to be in worship with others, or to prioritize time with a spiritual director as you work through questions, difficulties, ups and downs.

Whatever it is that helps you draw closer in connection with God, and to further your walk in the journey, needs to be prioritized daily and weekly. If you don’t prioritize your spiritual work, it’ll become one of the rocks that won’t fit in the container of life.

>> Make a list of the “big rocks” and “small rocks” in your life. Does that list fit with the reality of how you spend your time?

>> What are the blocks of time you can prioritize to fit your spiritual life in first? 

>> How can you ensure that happens regularly and not get edged out?

Finding the Ebb & Flow

The key is in channeling that ebb and flow to advance in life.

Merriam-Webster defines the term “ebb and flow” as something that changes in a regular and repeated way.

There is sort of ebb and flow in life—a natural rhythm. I like that imagery because I love spending time at the beach. There is a constant rhythm to the ocean as the waves crash and recede and the tides come and go. The sand then “resets” with the changing of those tides, and the impact of sandcastles and children playing is washed away by the time the sun rises. Where castle moats once were carved into the beach, nothing but a clean slate appears with the moving sun. All of the activity returns the next day and the cycle continues. 

Similar to the beach, that idea of the ebb and flow can be found in our daily lives, our monthly routine, and even the year-long schedules that we manage. The key is in channeling that ebb and flow to advance in life.

Some tend to “turn over a new leaf” with the start of a new year. There’s something about January, resolutions, and a spirit of change that helps make some necessary change in our lives.  For others, Spring is an ideal time for a fresh start. The cold, brown of winter is receding while flowers bloom and the trees bud and makes for a great time to open the windows and open our lives to new possibilities. 

There is always a great time for change, but there will always be reasons and excuses for a lack of change, so the key is in identifying the ebb and flow of your own life and the time to make that necessary adjustment to advance in life. Find that time. Make that time and make space for change today.

What is the ebb and flow in your own life? 

How can you intentionally take advantage of that to effect change in your own life? 

Take some time to form a plan on this, and then tell someone who can hold you accountable to that plan.

Check out my eBook on “Advancing in Life” as a way to intentionally effect change in your life. This resource walks you through the key steps for assessing where you are and helping you to advance toward your dreams.

Finding the Ebb & Flow
The End (of the year) Is Near

The End (of the year) Is Near

It’s time to stop reacting to life and what it throws at you. Let’s instead take some initiative to Advance in Life.

I was scrolling through Instagram recently and saw a post about the countdown to the end of the year, and that in fact, the countdown is really to the end of the decade. That’s crazy! Didn’t we just flip to the year 2000, and now it’s suddenly going to be 2020?! 

[Side Note 1: the fact that I just said that likely makes me old. That sneaks up on you!]

[Side Note 2: the fact that I said “that sneaks up on you” confirms Side Note 1.]

As we approach the end of the year, and the end of the “20-teens,” some might look at the calendar and suddenly shift into “scurry mode” and buckle down to try and accomplish a laundry list of goals or intentions before the calendar flips officially to 2020.

Were there things you thought you would have accomplished by now? Something perhaps that has been on your list that hasn’t gotten any traction?

Check out this new eBook!

That can feel deflating or frustrating. Don’t let that get you down too much. Don’t sit in disappointment of what hasn’t happened. You’ll never move forward with that mindset.

Instead, what if you spent the remainder of 2019 readying for a new decade? Do some honest assessment of where you are, and then begin to look, and plan, ahead for what’s to come.

Check out my newest eBook, Advancing in Life. In this book I walk you through a process for taking a look at where you are right now, dreaming for the future, and creating a plan to move toward that future picture in all areas of your life. 

It’s time to stop reacting to life and what it throws at you. Let’s instead take some initiative to Advance in Life. Let’s move forward together.

Dead or Alive?

Mindlessly, breathlessly, we run from event to event, happening to happening in an existence which is neither dead nor alive.

I was doing dishes and looking out over the backyard. Along the fence at the back of our property we have several plantings of grasses and lilies. The weather has turned colder, and the plantings have gone from green to yellow as they begin to go dormant for the winter. 

Suddenly it occurred to me that they aren’t dead, but they certainly aren’t alive either. There’s no life and vitality in them in comparison to their flowering beauty this past summer. They will return in the Spring, but in the mean time they are somewhere between life and death.

There have been times in my life when I was somewhere in between. I knew I wasn’t yet dead, but there was not much life happening in me either. I didn’t know it at the time, but as I look back I realize that my spirit was dormant. 

In the second part of John 10:10, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  We were created to be fully alive, but human nature edges in and we shift to autopilot. Mindlessly, breathlessly, we run from event to event, happening to happening in an existence which is neither dead nor alive. It’s somewhere in between.

It’s time for a wakeup call. It’s time for Spring. It’s time to call forth your spirit from a season of dormancy and move toward life and vibrancy of the soul. 

What can you do differently to move toward life? 

How is God’s voice calling to you to be fully alive to God’s presence in your life?

What changes need to take place?

Let’s set up a Spiritual Direction session to talk about this:

Dead or Alive?
Soul Maintenance Required

Soul Maintenance Required

Paying attention to the current spots in our spirit that are thinning, dulling, and starting to chip away, and then taking the steps to maintain and care for that in a timely fashion, will ensure that massive repair and coverup will not have to happen later. 

The parking lot at our church is a bit of a headache. Over the last several years we have worked with an asphalt repair company to tackle the numerous places where there are potholes, thin spots, and what they call “alligator” pavement—that apparently means disintegration that looks like alligator skin. All that to say that our pavement isn’t good.

We recently had several spots repaired, and as I sit here we are waiting on the company to reseal the pavement and paint new parking lines. The sealing process will cover the scars and blacken the surfaces, and the new lines will draw the eye to the makeover. The problem is that it simply covers the rest of the conditions. There are spots in the parking lot where there’s just not much left because it wasn’t properly maintained years ago. Right now we are trying to salvage what we have, limp along, and get a few more years out of the asphalt. The reality is that eventually we are going to have to break down and have the whole thing milled off, redone from scratch, and that will cost an exorbitant amount of money.

Many times we try to get away with the bare minimum. When life gets busy, schedules grow hectic, and everything seems unmanageable, there are certain parts of our life that get edged out. At the church, the financial needs elsewhere edged out the investment that should have been made to maintain the parking lot before it was too late. We are now paying (literally and figuratively) for the neglect that seemed necessary at the time. 

The same can hold true in our spiritual lives. We run from one activity, meeting, or job to the next just trying to hold it all together. We go through the drive thru, self-medicate with another extra-shot-coffee-drink, and tell ourselves that there will be more time later—this is only a season of life after all. When we do that, though, we are usually “kicking the can down the road” and the bill will still come due. We will eventually have to pay for the neglect that we thought was necessary. Our church is paying to repair our asphalt because it wasn’t properly maintained and cared for along the way. 

We aren’t physical beings with a spirit, instead we are spiritual beings with a body. Our spirits are what make us who we are, and when we don’t attend to the spirit regularly we will end up paying for it later. Proper attention to our soul maintenance, on a regular basis, is what will ensure our health in a holistic sense. Paying attention to the current spots in our spirit that are thinning, dulling, and starting to chip away, and then taking the steps to maintain and care for that in a timely fashion, will ensure that massive repair and coverup will not have to happen later. 

We almost lost our pavement, but that’s not as serious as losing your spirit.

Pay attention, perform the proper maintenance, stay on top of the whispers (or cries) of your soul, and attend to those needs now.

Spiritual Direction is a great way to sit with someone and do some inspection and introspection. Don’t put it off. Let’s do some soul maintenance together through Spiritual Direction sessions. Click below for more information and a booking link.

Invest in Yourself

Beyond ceasing to care for our bodies, sometimes we fall into the trap of not caring for our spiritual selves, mental or emotional selves, and that can head down a dangerous path in which neglect turns to dis-ease of the soul.

There is sometimes a tendency to neglect ourselves. It might happen slowly over time, or suddenly, in the case of having a child or some other significant life change. I remember, shortly after our daughter was born, making the phone call to the gym to see about cancelling our membership. We just couldn’t figure out how to make it work while caring for a new baby. 

It’s not just memberships at the gym that can get neglected. Beyond ceasing to care for our bodies, sometimes we fall into the trap of not caring for our spiritual selves, mental or emotional selves, and that can head down a dangerous path in which neglect turns to dis-ease of the soul. Some people have grown up with the belief that others are more important and that can contribute to the neglect of self in all areas. With some sense of “hero humility” we tend to the needs of others rather than investing in ourselves. If any of this sounds familiar, please hear this:

You are worthwhile.

You have value.

You are important to this world.

You play a vital role in the lives of others around you.

You are worth investing in.

You are. You are worth investing in, and it’s completely acceptable to acknowledge that fact. It’s actually counter-cultural to truly believe that you, yourself, are worth investing in, and it can feel like an act of defiance and rebellion to rest, care, and invest in yourself.

It’s not selfish or self-seeking to do so. You deserve to take time for you. If I’ve discovered anything in my years in ministry it’s that I am less effective in all areas of my life when I have poured everything out. I am more effective in all areas of my life when I have taken the time to be filled.

Two years ago I took a 30-day sabbatical after 18 years in ministry. It was long overdue to take that time. I felt a little guilty, and I knew that most people don’t get that kind of opportunity, but I also knew that I was running on empty and would soon burn out. I had seen it happen in numerous colleagues b/c they didn’t take time away. Seeing the results of that lack of prioritization, I realized that I was worth investing in myself. 

In the two years since then I have taken numerous steps to ensure that I invest in myself. I find time daily to be away from others in silence and prayer or meditation. One day each month I go to a retreat center to meet with my Spiritual Director, to share my struggles and celebrations, and to bear my soul and be loved regardless. I walk the grounds of the retreat center and breathe deeply in time that is my own. Sometimes I still feel guilty for having that time, but I know that I will be better for it and investing in myself.

Just recently I took another 30-day sabbatical as an act of investing in myself. In contrast to the last time when I was at the end of my rope, this time was much more “preventative self-care” while I am still at a healthy place. Yes, investing in yourself is self-care, and it’s preventative in that it continues to fill you up before you ever get to the point of empty.

I know it can feel selfish, self-serving, or counterproductive in using your time, but I promise you that investing in yourself reaps endless reward. Taking some time in the midst of life, in order to invest in yourself, shows that you believe in your personal worth. 

It will recharge your spirit. 

It will renew your mind. 

It will establish patterns of sabbath in your life that will create change in other areas of your life.

You are worth investing in.


Let me know if you are interested in Spiritual Direction as an act of investment in your spiritual life. You can contact me through the website or set up a 1-on-1 here.

Invest in Yourself
I’m Off to Make Space

I’m Off to Make Space

Beginning Sunday, July 14, I will be off to make some space for a month. As a pastor, I am blessed to be given time away from my church roles for a 30-day spiritual renewal leave (sabbatical). I will be shutting down my lines of commuications, suspending my blogging, and walking away from social media for that time.

During my month away I will be reading the Psalms in their entirety, reading “The Interior Castle” by St. Therese of Avila, as well as “Chasing Francis” by Ian Cron. I will be journaling, reading fiction, finding some space near water, and enjoying family time. There is likely to be a new tattoo to commemorate my time away.

When I return in the middle of August I will be booking September appointments for Spiritual Direction, both in person and via Skype/Facetime for those who are at a distance. If you are interested in more information on what that looks like and how it works, just reply to this email and in August we will schedule for September.

I’m also working on a lead for a physical location for my practice, so stayed tuned for more information on that. 

Enjoy the next 30 days. Make some space of your own. I will talk to you soon.

Keep Hiking

The intention is to continually evolve in who we are and who we are becoming, ever closer to the end product that Jesus desires to see lived out in us…

At our church we use the image of a hiking map to depict spiritual formation. It’s a far more organic idea of how we grow and develop in faith when compared to rigorous step-by-step processes that churn out disciples. In hiking there is far more focus on the journey, enjoyment of the steps along the way, a variety of ways to get from Point A to Point B, and a realization that it’s better done with a friend and with a focus on the ‘getting there’ rather than just the destination.

Right now I’m preaching a series on this, and I talked about the need to keep growing, and in fact to keep hiking—to keep being formed spiritually rather than feel as though you’ve arrived.

The temptation in spiritual formation is to work the program and arrive at the destination, but the reality is that we don’t arrive at any destination until our last breath has left us. In the mean time there is a need to keep on hiking. If you’ve ever been to a local park, hiking trail, or even state/national park on a somewhat regular basis, you’ve probably noticed that things change. 

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher born in 544 b.c. said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Just as with the river, the hiking trail never truly looks the same no matter how many times you hike it, because nature keeps moving, changing, and shifting, and the hope is that you do too. 

We need to keep moving, changing, and shifting in who we are as people—at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Some get stuck, I suppose, but that’s not the intention. Some people stop hiking and set up camp, but that’s not the point. We are called to continually evolve in who we are and who we are becoming, ever closer to the end product that Jesus desires to see lived out in us, and that means looking as much like Jesus as possible. 

When we hike a trail that is known to us, we will notice the changes to the environment, but not just because nature changes. We also change and that affects how we see and experience that trail. When we keep hiking spiritually we will notice changes to the environment and opportunities we face, but we will also see and experience them differently because we have changed in the process. At least that’s the point. 

I’d like to challenge you to keep on hiking in your spiritual journey. Explore previously unknown trails, double back to some scenic overlooks to enjoy the experience, and be sure to hike with a friend. Spiritual Direction is an excellent way to survey the landscape of your faith, and to journey with someone who will hold you accountable to keep on hiking.

I’m currently accepting new clients for Spiritual Direction sessions to begin in September. If you feel like you’ve gotten stuck, or been camping too long, and if you’re interested in pursuing Spiritual Direction, send me a message and we’ll talk.


Keep Hiking
“You’ve got to want it!”

“You’ve got to want it!”

When we do the work and put in the intentional focus, results will follow. But you’ve got to want it first.

Human tendency is often to take the path of least resistance and that’s precisely what landed me at the gym as an overweight-out-of-shape pastor. I coasted with my physical health, ate poorly and often, and generally let myself go while reconciling that I was doing “God’s work” and that was more important than taking care of myself. If I just drank more Mountain Dew and some “roller dogs” from Speedway I could make it to the next meeting. A brief physical, blood test, and a shocked look from a nurse when my results came back led me to some drastic changes in diet and joining a gym.

I’ve now been working out at the same gym for about 6 years. It’s a class-style format similar to crossfit. We work out in smaller groups, usually rotating around the room through various exercises, while the trainer gives instruction and encouragement via microphone through the sound system with music thumping in the background. There are several phrases that the Owner/Trainer will say in the midst of the class. 

“You’ve got to want it!”

“This is where you dig deep, push through the pain, and that’s when you get results!”

I tease him that we have the same job, he’s just way more muscular than me. Just as with our need for physical training, our spirits also need training work to grow and develop. Our tendency in spiritual formation is sometimes to take the easiest route, shift into autopilot, and generally let ourselves get out of spiritual shape. On occasion there is a crisis that leads to a new path of formation, and other times we may just look up and realize how far we’ve wandered. Regardless of the cause, that phrase of “You’ve got to want it” rings in my ears. “This is where you dig deep…that’s when you get results!” 

When we do the work and put in the intentional focus, results will follow. But you’ve got to want it first. Take some time to do a little assessment. 

  • Are you where you want to be in your spiritual health? 
  • What will it take to make the necessary changes to move in that direction?
  • What is your first step, and when will you take it? 

If you’d like to explore Spiritual Direction as an option, send me a message and we’ll talk about what that could look like.

 

Even Hummingbirds Stop

Our culture has an addiction to busyness which isn’t good for our souls. We have an obsession with movement and activity which doesn’t allow for our spirits to rest.

I stood outside sipping my morning coffee. It was one of those mornings where the air was cool, but my slippers and the mug of coffee offered the warmth I needed to enjoy the moment of pause. I sipped mindfully. I breathed deeply the smell of coffee and fresh air. I drank in the quiet moments that made everything else melt away.

I heard birds of all sorts singing their morning tunes as they flitted from branch to branch. A bluejay, oriole, redwing blackbird, goldfinch, and plenty of robins filled the morning quiet. Suddenly I heard a buzz nearby me, moving fast. My first thought was that it seemed too early in the day, and season, for a bee of significant size to be buzzing by in that way.

Before that thought finished, I stood in amazement as I saw a hummingbird land on a branch not 10 feet away from me. That was the source of the buzz I had heard—the rapid movement and busyness of the morning. And yet in this moment it had stopped all the winged activity and sat on a branch to rest.

This happened three times, in fact. Each time I stood still, motionless, taking in the rare sight of a hummingbird at rest. It was a small holy moment for me. And then it occurred to me in that moment:

Even hummingbirds stop.

I think for most of us there is a lot of activity and movement in life. With busy schedules, and long “to do” lists, so often we go from one thing to the next, and the next, barely pausing to eat or grab more coffee. As a pastor, there is somehow even a badge of honor that comes with constant activity and full calendars. Twisted, I know.

Our culture has an addiction to busyness which isn’t good for our souls. We have an obsession with movement and activity which doesn’t allow for our spirits to rest.

Even hummingbirds stop. We should too.

Find time today, maybe even right now, to stop and rest. Savor that cup of coffee instead of slugging it down. Really taste and smell it. Get up from your desk and take a 10 minute walk. Go outside, close your eyes, and take a few minutes to simply listen to what’s happening around you. Then open your eyes and look for a few things you haven’t noticed before.

How will you make_space today?

 

Even Hummingbirds Stop